Record crowd supports hospitalized Southeast soccer player
The Southeast women's soccer team played in front of a record crowd of 841 fans on Tuesday night.
The team played to a 0-0 draw against the Evansville Purple Aces, but most of the players' and fans' thoughts were with defender Meg Herndon, who was hospitalized on Sunday night after being involved in an accident while driving her scooter.
Southeast coach Paul Nelson was in awe of the support for Herndon and the team.
"I guarantee you most of that was in support for Meghan," Nelson said. "We do fine here, but the amount of emails I got before the game was a lot. We knew it was going to be a great tribute to Meghan."
The accident occurred at the intersection of Sprigg Street and Normal Avenue. Herndon was driving a scooter and collided with a truck.
"Initially it's a huge shock. It's very difficult to deal with," Nelson said. "At one stage we weren't going to play the game and the captains talked to me and the captains talked to the administration, and the people in the administration looked at the girls and [said], 'You know what, it's the right thing to play the game.'"
Herndon was airlifted to Barnes-Jewish hospital in St. Louis, where she remained Tuesday night.
According to an update posted Tuesday afternoon on the caringbridge.org site started in her name, Herndon has not responded to anyone since the accident. The pressure on her brain increased at one point when she was given nutritional support but later returned to its previous level.
"I think Meg was our big motivation and everyone on the team wanted to play, just because we knew it was one of those things where we would have a lot of motivation behind the game," senior defender Ali Bauer said. "We didn't want to just sit around and just think about it.
Homemade signs in honor of Herndon hung across the top of the bleachers. Two of the signs said "Rally for Meg" and "Redhawk Pride."
Redhawks players honored Herndon by wearing a red ribbon tied in their hair.
Other Southeast students, including Southeast running back Levi Terrell, showed their support for Herndon on Twitter during the game.
"Anyone know where #SEMOfootball can get the red ribbons for #RallyForMeg?," Terrell tweeted. "We would like to rock them in support of her this Saturday at SIU"
Forward Kasey Crowden stood out during the game by leading Southeast with five shots, two of which were on goal.
"She does two things great," Nelson said of Crowden. "She's able to get good quality crosses into the box and second thing is she hits the net when she shoots, so when she shoots for a corner that's where it is going."
Fans were invited onto the field after the game for a vigil and prayer in honor of Herndon's recovery. Cindi Herndon, Meg Herndon's mother, was in attendance for the game and talked to the team before the vigil began.
"It felt real good to see everybody out there tonight, just to know we have that much support from people that know her and didn't know her," Bauer said. "Especially all the student-athletes that came out, it shows that it really doesn't matter what sport you play. When something like this happens, everybody just comes together."
Fans circled around the team for the vigil. After the service ended, players cried as they walked toward the locker room and the stands.
"We wanted to try to keep everything as normal as we could," Bauer said. "We wish we could have pulled out a win for her. We all worked very hard and left it all on the field."
Southeast is now 1-5-2 on the season while Evansville is 1-6-1. Southeast's next game is at 7 p.m. Friday at Memphis.